The Uneven Impact on Households
Edited by Ray Forrest and Ngai-Ming Yip
Chapter 1: Households, Homeownership and Neoliberalism
Ray Forrest INTRODUCTION As recently as the early 1980s, just as neoliberalism began to gather political and policy momentum, the discourse around homeownership was essentially rooted in a social project. The growth of homeownership was presented by politicians, and engaged by most analysts, as a core element in the spread of middle-class lifestyles from minorities to majorities. Whether it was the American Dream, the Australian Dream or the British version of a property-owning democracy, the ingredients were pretty much the same. Homeownership was associated with stability and security; it gave a ‘stake in the system’; it represented an asset that could be handed down to children (Hamnett et al., 1991); it was associated with political conservatism and responsible communitarianism; it provided a general sense of well-being, of ontological security (Saunders, 1990; Forrest et al., 1990). It was implicitly imbued with the warm glow of family life. Of course, these and related associations with homeownership were subject to both theoretical debate and empirical challenge. Nevertheless, although homeownership was increasingly recognized as the primary source of household wealth for the majority of households (see, e.g. Forrest and Murie, 1995), it was the political, social and cultural features of the tenure that were most prominent in academic and political debate. It was also acknowledged, however, that the image of homeownership that dominated derived from a time when, in many societies, it was the minority tenure of a relatively secure upper- and middle-class section of society whose housing experiences were typically rooted in a...
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